Only 6 miles until the Colorado border. And only 8 and a half miles until Cumbres Pass,where we hitch to Chama, and prepare for the San Juans.
The strangest thing about the morning’s miles is how smoky everything was- how could there be a fire already? Wasn’t it barely June? That didn’t bode well at all. It was so smoky we could barely see the outline of the mountains we had been so enamored with yesterday.
We slogged through mud and melting snow, and I was amazed again at how abruptly the transition to Colorado had occurred. And then, there it was, officially- the New Mexico, Colorado state line! Such an arbitrary line, really, in the grand scheme of everything, but a milestone none the less- one of five states complete, and the state with the most miles at that. So long New Mexico! See you again one of these springs!
Just around the corner was the Cumbres valley, still obscured by smoke. Oh, I hope this isn’t our fate for the rest of the trail! A steam engine train still ran a scenic route on the tracks visible below, and its announcing whistle echoed faintly from somewhere down the canyon. We scurried down the switchbacks- how cool would it be to take the train as our hitch?!- and arrived at the historical station below to see it was scheduled to stop in only 15 minutes, heading the opposite direction. Well, still be cool to see if puff on by. But after forty minutes of waiting, and only hearing the ghostly distant whistles, Grizzly Smurf had joined us and the three of us stuck out our thumbs. In very short order an awesome vintage Toyota Forerunner piloted by a kind man named George pulled over. “I’ve got it out for a test drive this morning,” he said, “I’ve made a few adjustments to see if it does better at altitude.” He grinned. “Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that part yet.” It was an ‘84 he’d been restoring, and we chatted about old vehicles and Colorado and the pace of life in this slice of the country as he steered us through the miles of curves, down down down, to the thick atmosphere and hot climate of Chama 2500 feet below. One funny thing I noticed on the way- none of the highway/ railroad crossings had gates or lights of any kind, just a sign to pay attention. “Does that ever cause issues?” I asked George. “Not that I’ve ever heard of,” he replied.
He dropped us at the Y-Motel, the hiker epicenter by word of mouth, after driving through a discouragingly long, spread out town. We checked in early (bless Sian), grabbed our resupply box and new filter (huzzah!) from the pile of deliveries, unloaded our packs, and started the shower rotation. Tepid dribble though it was, a shower feels exponentially more glorious for each additional day out, and this one was adequate for 9 days since the last one.
Now the motels in New Mexico had been interesting, to say the least, but the Y might take the cake: squeeze by the water heater to use the sink, window screens flapping in the breeze, furniture appearing more like it was put here in storage rather than feng-shuied. It was clean, though, thankfully, and the price was adjusted for the ramshackle-ness, and that was good enough.
Laundry and resupply were the two orders of business, and I pitched it to Prana that we divide and conquer- he could go do laundry, which was 2.2 miles away, via bicycles with GSmurf, and I would sort the resupply, clean everything, and shop at the grocery across the street. “But it will be way more fun to do the laundry together,” he said, “and then we can get pizza. I can’t bring it back hot from that far.” We went back and forth and I ultimately caved, much to my later despair.
There were no bikes as advertised, we found out after turning down several offers of rides to the laundry. A kind bus driver took us as far as the post office – half way-
and then we walked sweltering asphalt to the Speed Queen, a quirky laundromat strangely tucked behind a middle school. By the time the laundry was done, the hard plastic chairs had completely seized up my legs, but I had gotten some blog posts uploaded. A draw.
We walked the whole 2.2 miles back, thumbs out, no rides offered, after learning the pizza place was closed, and then learning the bakery was closed as well. I stopped to watch as some train workers cleaned and scrubbed the inside of the engine that was back at the station- do they have to do that every run? Is that part of running a steam engine? As we passed the Family Dollar I tried to nip in for Ibuprofen, but the clerk was locking it up, at that moment, three and a half hours early. What was going on with this town?!
As we neared hiker central, a gang of hikers was walking towards us, including Chimney and Goldfish. Well, at least it was good to run into them. Everyone converged on the Subway, basically the only place open, and weathered the passive-aggressive unhappiness of the people working there. (Can I have double tomatoes? I asked the woman. She added two limp slices. Can I have triple tomatoes then? I tried. If looks could poison a sandwich…)
We took our sandwiches back to our room, and Prana went across the street for beer to go with it. We piled on leftover hummus and cheese from lunch as well, and it became a feast for champions. Time for bed to signal the end of this day.